2.22.2006

core values 2

We value a growing understanding of what it means to be a true community of faith…

Community is not an easy thing to define, but it clearly has to do with healthy, interdependent relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ, centered around common purposes, interests or goals.

If God’s ultimate purpose is that “earth and heaven be one” then so should ours be. If God’s purpose is that we more and more resemble the shalom people of God, then so should ours be. If the value mentioned above is true for us, then the present and growing Kingdom of God is one of the key goals around which we are to center this community of faith. This means that we as the gathered and dispersed people of God live our lives, approve our budgets, make our plans, adapt our ways of doing things (and preserve our ways of doing things) as they contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God in our midst, our geographical community and our world. If what we are doing or planning to do does not build and nourish that Kingdom, then we dare not do it. This requires prayer, humility, self-sacrifice and honesty with ourselves and with one another.

If we truly value community we not only center our lives around common goals and purposes, but we do so in authentic Christ-honoring relationships with one another. This means we hold one another accountable in our individual walks with Christ. It means caring for one another in practical, authentic ways. It means dealing with one another in loving ways, forsaking all forms of behavior that damage relationships, destroy unity and therefore corrupt our worship and our witness in the world. And, when we fail in these relationships, valuing community means making those relationships right. It means reconciliation with those who have wronged us or those whom we have wronged. It means confessing our sins to one another and confronting one another in love and truth when we feel that we have been “sinned against.” It means asking for forgiveness when we sin and granting forgiveness to those who sin against us. It means refusing to gossip or backbit or slander others. It means speaking out when such behaviors are going on around us.

Community is about purpose and mission and it is about relationships with one another. Jesus himself prayed for us in John 17 that we be one so that the world would know that God the Father sent him. Our witness suffers when our unity suffers. Our unity suffers when we do not value and nourish community.

2.18.2006

core values 1

I just (this week) joined Easum-Bandy and Associates (EBA) and began exploring some of their resources. As a result of some things I read by Bill Easum I have been challenged to "take the lead" and develop a list of core values for my congregation. Easum believes this is not something that commmittees should do. He sees it as the role of pastoral leadership. I have issues with this, but I don't entirely disagree with him, to be honest.

Now, I know that precious few people actually read this blog (it would help if I kept it up to date!), but I know that those of you who do read it are thoughtful, faithful people with important opinions. And I value your opinions. So, what I would like to do is, little by little publish a work in progress on the core values I see at work in our congregation here, for your review and comments. Feel free to challenge me, give me your guidance, argue if you like (though I don't think there will be that much to argue about, frankly).

We value a growing understanding of what it means to be citizens of the kingdom of God… For the overwhelming majority of my life as a follower of Jesus (now approaching 30 years) I have understood Jesus’ language of “the kingdom of God (or “heaven”)” as a way of talking about one of two things, sometimes both. On the one hand, many of us hear in the metaphor of “kingdom” references to the after life (heaven, everlasting life, the resurrection). This is the place we will go when we die, we are told, or, alternatively, this is what will become reality when Jesus returns.

The second way of understanding the kingdom metaphor is internal; it is what happens in the internal life of the follower of Jesus. When we heard Jesus say, “the kingdom of God is within you” we heard him making a theological statement about the transformation that happens within individuals when we “receive” Christ.

I have come to believe that while both of these are true, neither of them is complete. Nor is the combination of the two. I have come to believe and come to sense that others in our midst believe, that there is something of the Kingdom of God that is now and ongoing and growing. When Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is within you” it might better be translated, “the kingdom of God is among you (or in your midst).” This translation radically alters the previous two understandings of the kingdom metaphor. Now the Kingdom of God is something here and now, not just off in the future somewhere; now the Kingdom of God is eternal and efficacious in the world in which we live, not only in our hearts and minds; now the Kingdom of God is communal, not just individual.

In my own spiritual development this understanding of the Kingdom of God is internal to every follower of Jesus, external wherever the will and dreams of God are becoming a reality, present in our lives and churches now, future in the sense that it will be fully realized later, even as it is present and growing now. The Kingdom of God is also communal in that is intended to be brought about and revealed in the context of the community of faith -- the Church Universal and Local.

NT Wright and others have talked about the Kingdom as present with us in the Celtic understanding of “thin places”. “Thin places” are geographical places where we can sense that the curtain between earth and heaven, between what is and the Kingdom of God, is very thin and wispy. You can almost see and taste and feel God’s presence in such places. The goal of God’s plan in such an understanding is that the two come together, that the Kingdom transform our physical world and relationships, that the thin curtain that divides the two be pulled back so that God’s Kingdom may flood in, cleansing and renewing all that is on this side of that curtain, thin and wispy though that curtain may be. Where the world is busy becoming “a better place,” then, the Kingdom of God is busy coming into existence in new and powerful ways. And, while this will not happen to the fullest degree this side of Christ’s return, we believe that it will one day be a reality. The fact that the fully formed Kingdom of God is our future reality sheds light on how we are to live and behave in the present; it transforms who we are now, as individuals and communities on a pilgrimage. As we journey toward our destination, we become more and more the people and the community God desires.

This understanding of the goal of God’s work is perhaps no better described than in the closing lines of the old hymn, This Is My Father’s World (italics mine):
This is Father’s world,
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world;
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.

2.09.2006

of potential, ratings and cancellation

Once again, it's been a while, but I've had nothing to say. There has been too much going on on the home front to take the time, honestly. But that's another story.

And, once again, since the ultrarev asks (previous post), no, I am not dissappointed that "The Book of Daniel" was cancelled. It was full of potential and it never got off the ground. Jesus was limited to one liners and was never really given anything of substance to say. So, they blew it. They could have had a meaningful drama, but opted for a reincarnation of "Desperate Housewives" instead. Their mistake.

As I said, if it doesn't go somewhere story-wise, why waste our time. In the end, it was wasting our time. I don't blame people for not watching, though, three weeks was not a very long time to give it a chance, frankly.

Now, let's move on, shall we? Besides, there is always "Lost".